Well, you’ve asked for it, now you’ve got it. Oh wait. I asked for it. And I wrote it. Hmmm...well, here it is anyway. Anything to distract us from the games right now.
John Joseph "Jack" Cust was born on January 16th, 1979 in Flemington, New Jersey. According to various sources, he is between 6’1’’ and 6’2’’, weighs approximately 230, bats left-handed, but throws right. Although his career with the Oakland Athletics is not even three weeks old, he has drawn no shortage of comparisons; from the protagonist in The Natural to the fastball-hitting Pedro Cerrano from Major League, to the moniker "Bush League Babe Ruth" and it’s no wonder. After a nearly-unbelievably injury-ravaged start to the season by the A’s, Cust is desperately trying to not only win his place in the starting lineup of a Major League baseball team, but is also trying to win the hearts of the Oakland faithful and beyond by adding a much-needed lift to a team that is falling fast.
But unlike many trying to break into the game of baseball, Cust is no rookie, and doesn’t have much in common with his early-20’s counterparts; he is 28 years old, and despite what the biography on MLB.com will tell you, Cust is not single; he has a wife named Jennifer and an 8-month-old daughter named Ava. Currently, we here at AN have no word on this Jennifer, unless our Midwest girl is keeping an awfully big secret. Likewise, we haven’t yet learned if Ava would be a good match for Diego Chavez, but I don’t think it’s too soon to hope that their kids get Cust’s bat and Chavy’s glove.
Although his father and one of his brothers played ball at Seton Hall, a Catholic university in New Jersey, Jack did not go to college. However, Cust’s ‘tape-measure’ homeruns at Immaculata High School, in Somerville, NJ, were enough to earn him a first-round draft pick (30th, to be exact) in the 1997 draft, where he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks, right before their very first major league season. There were plenty of good reasons to think that Cust was the real deal; he has collected no shortage of baseball credentials in his career to date. Cust was First Team High School All-American First Base in 1997, was the Pioneer League All-Star OF in 1998; in 1999, he was Baseball America’s First Team Minor League All-Star DH, California League All-Star OF, the Diamondback’s Minor League Player of the Year, and a Class A All-Star. In 2000 he was the Texas League All-Star OF, and in 2001 he was the Pacific League All-Star OF.
Cust actually made his major league debut on September 26, 2001 with Arizona, but in January of 2002, he was traded to the Rockies with J.D. Closser for Mike Myers. Cust went on to win the MVP later that year in the Triple-A All-Star Game, but the following year, he was traded from the Rockies to the Orioles, and in 2004, after bouncing between AAA and the Major Leagues for three years, he was granted free agency. He was then signed as a free agent by our own Athletics, but obviously nothing materialized, and he was released in 2005. He was signed by the Padres organization soon after, where he played baseball and waited...and waited....for one last shot at The Show, and twenty days ago, he got exactly that.
It is fittingly ironic that the A’s and Billy Beane should be the ones to end up with what is probably Cust’s last major league attempt, since he pretty much embodies Beane’s perfect idea of a ballplayer. In his short stint with the A’s, all of 16 games, Cust is batting .288 with eight homeruns, twenty RBIs, nineteen walks, and twenty-two strikeouts. His slugging percentage is a ridiculous .808 over this stretch, and even though that number will obviously drop considerably, expect it to still be fairly high when it levels off (since he is the opposite hitter of Kendall), but the most striking statistic, and the one that will make or break his major league career, is his OBP, which sits just a shade under .500. Despite striking out an average of more than once every game (and don’t expect this to change), over Cust’s career, you can find him on base almost as often as not. From all accounts, he possesses a tremendous knowledge of the strike zone, and as he has proven so far, he doesn’t miss many fastballs.
Even when not playing baseball, there are still baseball-related activities to be had at the Cust household. Jack’s father, Jack Jr., and his younger brothers, Kevin, who plays in the Braves organization, and Mike, who was drafted by the Cardinals (after playing at Seton Hall like his father) all help run the Jack Cust Baseball Academy, founded by both Jack Custs, which is the East Coast’s premier indoor/outdoor training facility for baseball. It is obvious how proud Jack Cust Sr. is of Jack; the website is keeping a running tab on Cust’s major league homeruns, and other Oakland Athletics news.
It took him a long journey to get here, and there is no guarantee of a happy ending. But he’s doing exactly what he has wanted to do for most of his life; play baseball at the highest level possible, and through circumstances completely out of his control (we call it ‘making the baseball injury gods angry’), Cust has the opportunity to extend his stay in Oakland. I, for one, hope he does just that.
Tonight's game is at 5:11, as the A's try to avoid the sweep. On a related note, can I get a volunteer to fly to Detroit to take care of the 'Anaheim problem'?